Chris Petersen: Huskies’ game at Utah ‘by far’ toughest test of the season

SEATTLE — It wasn’t Stanford.

Not the way the Washington Huskies stomped the Cardinal, 44-6, before a sellout crowd Sept. 30 at Husky Stadium, even though Stanford was ranked No. 7 at the time.

It wasn’t Oregon, either. The Huskies buried the reeling Ducks, 70-21, the next week before a sellout crowd at Autzen Stadium.

So there isn’t much disputing UW coach Chris Petersen’s claim Monday that Washington’s 12:30 p.m. Saturday game at No. 17 Utah — with ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Salt Lake City — represents the Huskies’ most arduous obstacle so far this season.

“I think their record proves out,” Petersen said of the Utes, who are 7-1 overall. “Going on the road, that’s a really great environment to play in, all those types of things across the board. This will by far be our toughest test.”

In fact, Utah will be the first team the Huskies (7-0, 4-0 in Pac-12) face this season that currently holds a Pac-12 record above .500, and the Utes are the only other Pac-12 team with seven victories. This will be Washington’s first trip to Salt Lake City since 2011, a 31-14 UW victory.

And while the Utes haven’t been statistically dominant like the Huskies — Utah ranks in the bottom half of the conference in both offensive and defensive yards per play, and scoring offense — they’ve managed to win four of five games decided by seven points or fewer, including last week’s 52-45 victory at UCLA. They’ve done it with an opportunistic defense that leads the country in turnover margin (plus-14).

Utah also has won 10 of its past 11 games at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where it has sold out 42 consecutive games and will have the national TV exposure from ESPN.

“I know their fans will be really excited,” Petersen said. “That’s usually what happens. It brings quite a bit of energy to the stadium. I think there’s going to be really good energy in that stadium whether ‘GameDay’ came or not. This probably just pours a little more energy into the stadium.”


UW’s Budda Baker is one of 16 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back.

Baker, a junior, is third on the team with 31 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss. He also has an interception, forced fumble and half-sack.


The kickoff time for Washington’s Nov. 5 game at California will not be announced until Sunday, after ESPN exercised its use of the six-day scheduling window.


Jeff Tedford, the former California coach whom the Huskies hired this season as a consultant, is being paid $50,000 over a four-month period for his services, according to records furnished by the UW. His contract, signed July 11, expires Dec. 31.

Tedford’s name has been mentioned recently in connection with the Fresno State head coaching job, vacant after the firing Sunday of coach Tim DeRuyter. Tedford said in August that his goal is to be a head coach again.


Petersen said again that he hopes to get senior defensive end Joe Mathis back from injury, though he repeated there is no timeline for Mathis’ return. Mathis, UW’s sacks leader, missed last week’s game against Oregon State because of an undisclosed injury.